The V.I. Raiders will have to play well to win this week, and it might take more than that, too – it might take a little necessary roughness.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League club is getting ready for Week 2 of the season and a matchup against the Westshore Rebels in Victoria.
“We’re going to go down there and it’s just going to be a cauldron,” said Jerome Erdman, Raiders coach. “The first half or quarter we’re just going to have to weather the storm.”
The Raiders scouted the Rebels’ win last weekend against the Langley Rams and saw a good football team.
“They play with a lot of emotion and intensity and they do have some very good athletes and they are well-coached,” Erdman said. “They’ve improved a lot over last season.”
The Rebels were also a fired-up group. Westshore amassed 255 penalty yards in Week 1, just four yards shy of the most all-time in B.C. Football Conference history.
“We’re expecting to play a big, tough, fast team,” said Ryan Dekker, V.I. centre. “And the thing about Westshore is, for the past couple years, even though their team hasn’t quite been where they wanted to be, they’ve always played us tough.”
Dekker said the Raiders always play tough, too, but will also need to play smart, and that’s the message the coaches are trying to get across.
“We can’t take any stupid penalties, we’ve got to be disciplined,” said Erdman. “We’ve got to be focused on our job and play our football and if we do that we should be OK.”
Defensively, the Raiders will have to contain a few different weapons on the Rebels. Victoria has two high-calibre running backs this year in Trey Campbell and Jamel Lyles and big quarterback Ashton MacKinnon is always a threat to run.
On offence, the Raiders will have to be crisp and utilize quick-developing plays, as they expect the opposition to bring pressure.
“They know we have a young quarterback and that’s one of the rules of football, if you’re going against a young quarterback you’re going to bring heat, you’re going to try and put pressure on him and confuse him,” Erdman said.
The Rebels came up with four interceptions in their Week 1 win.
“We’re going to take what they give us,” said the Raiders’ coach. “You can’t cover everything and our challenge is going to be finding out what they’re giving up and take advantage of that.”
Every time the Raiders and Rebels play, V.I.’s veterans remind the rookies that Nanaimo has never lost to Victoria in junior football. But Erdman said the past doesn’t matter and his team has to be completely focused on this week.
“It’s the Island rivalry,” he said. “It says it all. It’s going to be a good one.”
GAME ON … The Raiders and Rebels play Saturday (July 30) at 7 p.m. at Westhills Stadium in Victoria. The next home game for the Raiders is Aug. 6, when they host the Chilliwack Valley Huskers in a 2 p.m. game at Caledonia Park.